by Tony Fell
Do you feel like there is something in the water at the moment? Are you seeing or sensing some teams are struggling a little more? We have had many clients contacting us recently.
“Tony, we can see the impact of our people’s declining mental health on productivity, absenteeism and morale”
“Zandy, so many people are reporting they are burnt out and fatigued, people are more antsy with each other. Turnover is through the roof!!!”
These are some examples of psychosocial impacts in the workplace.
A simple and working definition of psychosocial hazard is provided by Safe Work Australia, is anything that could cause psychological harm (e.g. harm someone’s mental health). That of course is very broad.
What are the things in a workplace context that can harm someone’s mental health? The literature calls them ‘factors’, we think of them as red flags.
As discussed, we are increasingly fielding calls where clients have identified significant changes to these red flag issues.
Take on and give out red flags
We see it as, there are the factors that your people take on. These are matter that are external to them yet results in a feeling: “I feel burnt out [or fatigued or stressed]”. Then there are the factors that people do or give out, they display behaviours that are labelled as bullying, harassing or acting in an aggressive manner. Of course, the more stressed or burnt out a person is the more likely they are to act out in poor and inappropriate manner, whether that be a conscious action or not.
Further, the “give out” and “take on” factors play into each other to create an unhealthy workplace dynamic. They interact and combine to create and increase the risk to individuals, teams and organisations.
What is interesting is how the hazards, as identified in the SafeWork “Model Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial hazards at work” give a fantastic opportunity for you to consider different areas that may cause harm to your people. When we have been working with clients, we have helped them identify who is responsible and who should be responsible (not always the same) for these matters within their business. We have then worked cooperatively with them on focused and effective strategies to be developed to mitigate the risks.
As you read the list below, ask yourself who is really responsible for work design, organisational structure and social controls in your business or organisation. Are they different people/groups? Is responsibility for this different to has effective control? What is the impact of this?
A client in healthcare presented with a need for us to mediate in a team. What surfaced in those discussions included:
- a mismatch in the amount of work and employee skill level,
- discouragement to seek help from a supervisor who was overloaded, and
- the hybrid workspace of home and office was not meeting the needs of individuals to debrief after difficult conversations with clients.
All of these are psychosocial factors that left unattended create growing risks to people and together we developed a plan to combat these now identified risks and hazards.
The crucial role of line management
Often line managers are the ones who have the biggest impact on these hazards. We have worked with numerous clients across all industries who have identified that they have not significantly invested in this cohort to give them the skills, confidence and capacity to better manage these risks. When we then stop to think about this, it is scary. Scary because these are not abstract risks, this is your people, their mental health and the overall health of your business or organisation!!!
The law looks like it will be changing, soon!
What more of an incentive is needed! However, if that is not enough of an incentive, then how about the likely implementation later this year or early next of these issues year through The Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations (Vic).
If this blog has given you pause to think about the red flags in your organisation, please give us a call to discuss this further!!! There are ways of identifying, assessing, controlling and monitoring red flags. We are here if you are ready to come up with a plan for action.